EXPLAINER: 4th Mactan-Cebu bridge location opposed by Lapu-Lapu business sector, city government. Is their objection being heard by Malacañang?

Pachico A. Seares
·5 min read

WHAT WENT BEFORE: [] March 6, 2019: Japanese consultants from Japan International Cooperation Agreement (Jica) presented a preliminary survey to DPWH-Central Visayas for the fourth 3.3-kilometer Cebu-Mactan bridge.

A second component of the Bridge 4 project is a Mandaue City 4.9-kilometer coastal road, an extension of the proposed Metro Cebu circumferential road or proposed Mandaue-Liloan diversion road to divert traffic from the city center through a bypass road.

The project is scheduled to be completed in January 2028 "when all facilities are put into service." Both bridge and road are estimated to cost P79.5 billion (from the original P56 billion).

[] February 23, 2020: Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard "Ahong" Chan announced he would propose to Malacañang the change of the location of the bridge on his city's side, a little farther from the Marcelo Fernan Bridge.

[] August 31, 2020: The bridge project received P1.2 billion as initial funding under the 2021 spending program of DPWH. Earlier, on June 16, 2020, the Japanese and Philippine governments signed loan agreements covering two projects, one of which was the Cebu-Mactan bridge with its Mandaue coastal road.

[] April 20, 2021. Four business establishments repeat their appeal, this time to President Rodrigo Duterte in a letter.

LOCATION, LOCATION. Lapu-Lapu Mayor Chan, in his February 27, 2020 letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, raised the "vehement objection from the Oponganons and the business establishments" to the choice of location. Under the plan they called Option 1, the bridge would connect his city, near Marina Mall, to Mandaue City, near Cansaga Bay Bridge.

The bridge under said Option 1 would be only 900 meters, Mayor Chan said, from the foot of Fernan Bridge, creating "little vehicular space for traffic between Fernan Bridge and the proposed bridge." Thus, more traffic would be on concentrated space, instead of dispersing and providing more room for traffic build-up." Traffic would enter Lapu-Lapu City "in one of its business intersections and one of the main crossroads of Peza 1. The mayor said commercial activity would be disrupted and infrastructures "possibly" destroyed.

IT'S THE TRAFFIC, STUPID. In a press release on June 18 last year, Jica affirmed that the objective of the bridge-coastal road project is "to respond to the increasing traffic demand in Metro Cebu" and thus "contribute to socio-economic development through mitigating traffic congestion."

A serious objection to the bridge location, other than to the disruption of business in the affected area, is the matter of traffic. The opposers contend it would worsen, instead of ease, the existing traffic problem. Even for just that reason, planners and implementers should study how valid is the objection.

It would be hard to undo the mistake once the project is completed. Cebu City residents point to DPWH error in implementing the P638-million Mambaling underpass project, which, since its opening in May 2019 until now, has not been corrected despite public uproar over flooding each time it rains. The huge mistake: it cancelled the drainage component of the project, junking the huge cistern for side roads, which they could not implement because of right-of-way difficulties.

A traffic disaster is foreseen and feared at the fourth bridge if its location is not changed. It would be stupid to proceed with the project without first resolving the issue.

FROM MARINA MALL TO BARANGAY IBO. Mayor Chan said the opposers to the location, "along with the Government of Lapu-Lapu," asked for a third option, which would locate the Lapu-Lapu end of the bridge "somewhere near Barangay Ibo, about 2.06 kilometers from the Fernan bridge." That would allow "smoother flow of traffic," the mayor said, and avoid a busy intersection, with vehicles entering directly in the northwest quadrant of the city and connecting easily to the national highway and circumferential road and to the airport runway beside the Petron Depot.

The second option, which neither DPWH nor the Lapu-Lapu government or business sector supports, is having the bridge farther to the north, which would increase the distance across Mactan channel and corresponding cost of construction.

The junction of the coastal road on the Cebu side, Lapu-Lapu business leaders said in a separate position paper, should be "either at the northern boundary of Mandaue or, better still, the southern boundary of Consolacion."

NO CONSULTATION, OTHER GRIPES. Opposers to the choice of bridge location gripe about (a) having no "thorough" information and consultation," (b) objections to option 1 not having been heard, and (c) no "proper" traffic study presented. The rationale for option 1, they point out, did not consider the impact of the Cebu-Cordova bridge on traffic in Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue. The third bridge is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2022.

The major concern though, more vigorously expressed from the affected businesses, is that the adopted location would hurt large commercial establishments in Lapu-Lapu because it "targets" the northern business hub of Lapu-Lapu City and commercial business district of Peza 1.

NOT YET RESOLVED. Heard or not by Malacañang, the question of traffic and other complaints are not yet resolved.

An April 20, 2021 open letter, purportedly coming from Marina Mall management and three other private entities and circulated in local media, appealed to President Duterte with the same request: change the location.

DPWH recently asked for an endorsement by the Lapu-Lapu City Development Council, which it said it would need in forwarding the feasibility study to Neda. But the LGU and stakeholders of the project want to know: How about the change of location? Can it be adjusted later, even though DPWH already wants a notice to proceed with its detailed engineering design? How can the detailed design be made with the location not fixed?

The fourth bridge and its road component are national projects, big ticket items included in the "Build, Build, Build" project. LGUs must appreciate their coming but they deserve to be consulted on how it would affect them, during construction and when completed.